Thursday, 3 March 2011

This is not the end of history

As domino's fall across the Middle East depriving the local bully-boys of their Ba'thist power bases, the BBC talks of 1989 and the velvety-end of communist Eastern Europe emerging chrysalis-like into the sunlit uplands of democratic freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the Ba'thists celebrated as Arab nationalism, long ago turned into brutal autocratic dictatorship - led by Iraq where the silent witnesses to Saddam's despicable regime are still being discovered in mass graves in the Mesopotamian desert - often without a tongue. Police states run through fear and repression, from Iran in the East to Morocco in the west; Egypt in the north to Yemen in the south. A deep wound on the face of democratic freedom and progression, they are the reason I gave my consent to the invasion of Iraq. I did not do so lightly, nor will again without exacting a much greater level of circumspection.

I note that each domino knows just what they don't want - the current autocrat and their nasty little siblings - but none can articulate exactly what they do want. Tunisia has already reverted to the status quo ante - minus the figurehead who has already fled with the country's wealth. Egypt reverts to rule by an army council - difficult to see how septuagenarian defenders of the former regime are the likely candidates for democratic reform.

What is really needed is a precursor to democracy, a change in culture that allows democracy to seed, grow and flourish. One that presages the end of history - a free press that speaks the truth, an independent judiciary able to stand up to the ruling elite and an end to the corruption that so destroys people's hopes. Only then can we again consent for something so precious as democratic freedom. This is not the end of history and these are not the last men.